The team at Cisco (Ross Daniels, Jeff Campbell, and Nicole Andergard) was kind enough to pre-brief me on Rowan Trollope’s Enterprise Connect Keynote address. We are publishing this as the keynote begins, to give you a last minute preview. While we will have to wait to hear the keynote for the full story, I can share the basics on the overall theme, and three announcements, immediately. Please check out our rolling coverage of the EC event for any breaking news.
Keeping it Simple
This appears to be the core of Cisco’s collaboration strategy and messaging. Complexity blocks the benefits of collaboration from being truly realized. Nothing new here, but I always appreciate prioritizing ease of use over the raw horsepower of a collab platform. We will have to wait to see how the users react before we know if Cisco is really getting “simplicity” right, but you should expect the following announcements to be presented and positioned heavily as solutions to make collaboration simpler.
1. Cisco Spark (The App Formerly Known As Project Squared)
This is more than a name change. Project Squared (previously covered here in more detail) is no longer a project, it is a GA application. More importantly, it now has a full suite of business facing features to differentiate itself from the popular consumer apps on the market. While the basic service is still free, subscribers will get access to new elements, such as moderated rooms, and single sign on support. Check out the press release for the full list of new features, but the bottom line is that this is now an enterprise ready collaboration service.
In my opinion, Cisco clearly doesn’t see Spark as just one of its offerings. I think this is a big one for team Cisco and has much of their attention. I expect this to be a bit controversial, as not all industry analysts are on-board with the persistent team messaging dynamic yet. There may be some criticism of Cisco for putting any of their collaboration eggs in this basket. I believe the collaboration community doesn’t completely get the workflow and productivity benefits of persistent team messaging, and dismisses the idea too quickly. I believe the continuing growth and success of Cisco Spark, and other solutions in the field such as Acano, Unify Circuit, and even consumer apps like Slack and Hipchat, will prove me right, and the other analysts will slowly come around.
2. Context Service for Cisco Contact Center
Anyone else starting to get the feeling that video contact centers are going to be a real thing, real soon? Amazon’s Mayday is now a year and a half old, and people really like it. This particular announcement isn’t about video in particular, but more about removing some of the frustration of traditional help calls, by providing agents with your full relevant history. In other words, even if we do still get switched from agent to agent, we won’t have to start over each time by repeating all of our information and long account numbers. I am looking forward to learning more at the Keynote, and with Cisco turning its eye towards this space, we have more reason to expect video to be a part of it in the near future.
3. Cisco MX800 Dual: New Hardware Product
One of Rowan’s first big moves at Cisco was to kill off a vast majority of their hardware videoconferencing products. There were a number of benefits to this move, such as the fact that it is preferable for his designers to focus on creating a dozen-ish great products, rather than trying to create a several dozen good products. It also makes things much easier for sales teams, and helps customers to feel comfortable about making the right choice for their environment (too many choices can be paralyzing). There must be a good reason reverse this trend and offer a new Cisco product at this time, so I believe it when Cisco says their customers are asking for the MX800 Dual, and that there is an immediate market for it.
You can check out the full details in the press release, but the short story is that the original single screen MX800 is very popular, and creating a dual screen version of the platform adds some compelling benefits. This product is on the high end, which means analysts and pundits will be sure to turn their noses, as affordable huddle room systems are getting all the buzz. But the fact remains that Cisco has a LOT of deep pocketed customers who are still spending plenty of money for the high-end technology in their meeting rooms.
I’m starting to sense a pattern at these Cisco presentations. Something software to show their future direction, something hardware to show how their current design chops meet today’s needs, and something different to keep it interesting. Looking forward to hearing the full story at EC.